By AGNES EPES
Nottoway County has an ideal location. It is only a few hours’ ride from the very heart of Virginia’s magnificent hills and an equally short distance from the broad Atlantic. Richmond may be reached in two hours, Washington in six, and New York in twelve. Thus Nottoway people have the advantages of mountains, seaside and the large cities without the disadvantages of any of these. The Norfolk and Western Railroad linking the West to the East passes through the county, and the Southern Railroad cuts the western section. There are no large rivers, but the falls of Nottoway River afford promising water power. Nottoway is one of the smaller counties of Virginia and has between 14,000 and 15,000 population.
The pre-war period found the people of Nottoway County enjoying the old Virginia fox hunts, coon hunts and bird hunts, together with the more modern amusements. Its location, however, made it a more readily awakened community than many others.
The sympathies of our people were with the Allies, yet one often heard Germany defended in the early days of the war. When the powder plant at Hopewell was opened many of our young men went to work there, and a godly minister rebuked them, saying: “You have gone to make powder to kill Germans.” The crew of the German submarine that slipped into the United States harbor was rather applauded over its escape. But alas! the time soon came when our people could not believe that they had held such sentiments.
During the period of unrest preceding the entrance of the United States into the war the farmers continued to haul their crops of tobacco to the warehouses. The chilly fall and winter days found long lines of wagons and Fords hurrying along with their loads of this commodity. Groups of people gathered here and there to discuss the war that was raging across the seas, and when it became certain that the United States was becoming involved, the more optimistic were heard to console the disturbed ones by saying that so few of our boys would be called that the community would hardly miss them.
But suddenly, almost before we could realize what had happened, Nottoway found herself robbed of many splendid young men. Mass-meetings to teach patriotism were held. The flag was displayed from many homes. A meeting was called to urge young men to join a local military company that should prepare them to serve before they went to camp. This company grew rapidly and proved a help to those who later became the service men from the county. They worked by day and drilled by night.
The churches of the county-the Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, Presbyterian and Disciples of Christ-all served by keeping in touch with the boys in camp and helping those who were preparing to go. They kept before their congregations service flags and honor rolls in order that no boy should be forgotten. The churches served as gathering places to promote the growth of the Red Cross and various other welfare organizations. The ministers were officers in these organizations. Rev. C. O. Tuttle was chairman of the Nottoway Red Cross; Rev. R. L. McNair served in the Blackstone Branch, and Rev. W. W. Bain in the Crewe Branch. Rev. L. P. Little finally went to Quantico to serve for the Baptist State Mission Board. Church members contributed liberally to the Red Cross, Armenian Relief and Y.M.C.A. funds.
The public schools of Nottoway, Blackstone College and Blackstone Military Academy all did their part in the war work of the county.
The public schools were appealed to in practically all campaigns for funds. Each child was supposed to engage in some form of service for his country. It was touching to see little children of German parents contribute the sum of $5.00–the amount that each child was supposed to earn in the Victory Girls and Victory Boys drive. These children listened attentively to the lectures on “Why We Are at War With Germany.” Reports were given from day to day in both the English and history classes of the tragic happenings overseas. The classes in history tried to follow on their war maps the drives in which the American army had a part.
The sacrifices made by some of the children of the public schools in order that a 100 per cent record in the various war campaign drives might be made will never be forgotten by the teachers of that period. Editorials written by members of the upper English classes were strong enough to have some: influence. Honor rolls of the schools contained the names of Nottoway’s finest boys. Some of these boys never returned. They had been trained for most every profession except that of a soldier. Not once had their instructors wished for them the “paths of glory” that “lead but to the grave.” Indeed, there was a movement just before the war to teach universal peace.
The three high schools of the county-Burkeville, Crewe and Blackstone-were the centers of all public school war work in the county. The rural schools responded to every call from these centers.
In Burkeville High School the girls and teachers knitted many sweaters and mufflers during vacant periods. The principal, Mr. C. A. Edwards, resigned a month before school closed (1917) and went into the army. Mrs. Bowry served this principal’s unexpired term. The teachers were active Red Cross workers. Burkeville school responded liberally to the Soldiers’ Library fund. There were thirty-nine boys in service from this town.
In Crewe the work was excellent. A knitting club was formed in the school and first aid packages were prepared by the pupils.
Blackstone High School and Graded School are proud of their work for the Library fund, the Victory Boys and Girls drive, the United Welfare War Work, the War Savings Stamps campaign, the Red Cross and the Nottoway Soldiers’ Comfort League. There was never any need to enforce compulsory giving in the schools of Nottoway County. All that was necessary was to tell the children that the money was needed for our soldiers and in came their contributions. They felt it a privilege to give. The teachers of the schools helped the local board in getting questionnaires properly filled out.
The Blackstone High School boys and girls had an honor roll, showing the names of those in camp, those overseas and those that died in service. The roll was decorated by Mary Hurt, who had several brothers in service whose names were on that honor roll.
Two of the boys died in service, William Geyer and Larkin Clay. Two were decorated for bravery, Lieutenant John C. Boggs and Rev. James Cannon, III. One of the girls, Miss Nannie Tucker, served as a nurse at Camp Sevier and in San Francisco.
The Blackstone High School pupils have named two literary societies in memory of the two boys from that school who died in service-the “Larkin Clay Society” and the “William Geyer Society.” In the school auditorium two flags have been placed on pedestals, one the Virginia flag in memory of Larkin Clay, the other the United States flag in memory of William Geyer. On Armistice Day the girls and boys bring armfuls of flowers to place at the bases of these flag pedestals. Later in the day, after the patriotic services have been concluded, a committee of girls and boys place these flowers on the graves of the five World War soldiers in Lakeview Cemetery.
Blackstone Military Academy responded liberally to the subscriptions for the Soldiers’ Library fund as well as to many other causes. Mrs. E. S. Ligon has the following to say of the work of the academy:
“Blackstone Military Academy was headquarters of the Nottoway Soldiers’ Comfort League, and it was here that the members frequently met to wrap, address and send the sweaters to the Nottoway boys. On these occasions news of our boys was exchanged and letters read from those who had received the league’s gifts. From the faculty and cadet corps of B. M. A. we furnished fifteen commissioned officers and twenty-seven noncommissioned officers, and at one time eighty-one percent of the total enrollment of the school faculty, cadets and alumni were in service. Three of the cadets lost their lives.”
The Blackstone College for girls contributed largely to the Red Cross through its Y. W. C. A. Dr. Christian, president, and Mr. Adams, secretary, went into different parts of the county and collected for the Y.M.C.A. fund. It was in this auditorium that the Y.M.C.A. held a successful meeting. The girls in this college did their part in the Victory Girl drive.
There were 480 men drafted in the county and 195 recorded enlistments. Mr. Robert Jones, chief clerk of the local board. prepared and preserved invaluable records of each soldier. The members of the Local Board were: Charles Deane, county clerk; Arthur Hooks, M. D.; Henry Clay Smith, M. D.; William Robert Jones, attorney; Miss Emma Gray Lambert, clerk of board.
The members of the Advisory Board were: Moncure Gravatt, attorney; Henry Lee, Commonwealth’s attorney, and Hunter H. Watson, attorney.
The Medical Advisory Board consisted of John H. Younger. M. D.; Doctors James M. Habel, William R. Warriner. Charles C. Tucker, R. T. Taylor and R. Irvine Stith.
The two men of distinguished service in the county, according to the Virginia War History Commission in “Virginians of Distinguished Service in the World War,” are:
Rev. James Cannon, III., of Blackstone, chaplain, Tenth Engineers, First Division-French Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star, Silver Star citation, citation by division commander, citation by commander-in-chief.
Spirley E. Irby (colored), of Blackstone, private, Company H, 370th Infantry, Ninety-third Division-Distinguished Service Cross with citation.
Another distinguished service man whose record is given in the War History Commission’s volume and who properly belongs to Nottoway County, though accredited to Richmond, is John Campbell Boggs. Lieutenant Boggs was at school when he enlisted in Richmond, but his home is in Blackstone. He was a lieutenant in the Second Machine Gun Battalion, First Division, and won the Distinguished Service Cross with citation.
Nottoway had two nurses in service, Miss Nannie Tucker and Miss Ruth Atkins. As was stated in the history of Blackstone High School, Miss Tucker was stationed first at Camp Sevier and later in San Francisco. Miss Atkins was trained at Camp Lee and stationed at Toul, France, from September 9, 1918, to February 11, 1919. She writes:
“We arrived in Toul three days before the St. Mihiel drive and nursed sick and wounded from the St. Mihiel, MeuseArgonne and Verdun sectors. We also nursed German prisoners and American returned prisoners of war.”
She states further that during the five months of actual service her unit-Base Hospital 45-treated over 17,500 boys.
Those of our Nottoway boys who sacrificed their lives in the World War were:
Jesse Veale Reed, first lieutenant. 116th Infantry, killed in action.
Percy S. Dowell, private first class, died of wounds.
W. B. Small, private, died of disease.
Richard Leroy Bishop, private, died of disease.
Kirby Smith Selden, corporal, Company H, 318th Infantry, Eightieth Division, killed in action.
Minyard Dowley Vernon, private, died of disease.
Thomas Lafayette Walker, died of disease in France.
Larkin James Clay, private, killed in action.
James John Mattox, private, U. S. marines, died of disease.
Frank J. Dalton, died of disease.
William Orrell Geyer, private first class, lost in Tuscania disaster.
Len Augustus Harper, private, died of wounds.
Carter Haskins, corporal, Company G, 318th Infantry, died of wounds.
Hiram P. McDaniel, private, died after being discharged.
The bank officials of the county faithfully sold Liberty Bonds. They report that the first bond issue was not so easy to sell as the later ones. The second issue came close to quota, and the third, fourth and Victory loans easily reached or exceeded the quota. The National Bank sold $100,000 worth of bonds at one time, and the Citizens’ Bank sold $90,000 worth of bonds.
The following figures have been taken from the report of the Federal Reserve Bank in Richmond and show the quota, amount subscribed and number of subscribers for each loan except the first, for Which no figures were kept.
|Loan||Quota||Amount Subscribed||Number Subscribers|
The Red Cross Chapter in Nottoway County did splendid work. “This work,” so Rev. C. O. Tattle, chairman, writes, “took definite shape in a mass-meeting at Nottoway Court House, July 30, 1917 . . . . The petition that was circulated received the signature of such citizens as J. A. Hardy, H. H. Seat’, H. L. Williams, J. N. Crawley, L. S. Epes, R. F. Dillard, J. M. Hurt, H. H. Watson, G. R. Brittenham. C. O. Tattle. Headquarters was fixed at Blackstone and the permanent officers were: Rev. C. O. Tuttle, Blackstone, chairman; Hon. H .H. Watson, of Crewe, vicechairman; Mr. J. P. Agnew, of Burkeville, treasurer, and G. R. Brittenham, of Crewe, secretary.
“After prompt recognition of this chapter was received from national headquarters in Washington, D. C., Mrs. R. F. Dillard, of Blackstone, was made chairman of military relief, and Mrs. W. P. Bostick, of Burkeville, was put in charge of home service. Hon. L. S. Epes was chosen secretary to fill the vacancy created by Mr. G. R. Brittenham’s resignation, and Mr. C. B. Lane was made chairman of the second War Fund drive. These are the chapter officers as they remained substantially for the period of the war.”
There were three branches and six auxiliaries as follows:
Blackstone Branch. Hon. L. S. Epes, chairman, succeeded by Rev. R. L. McNair; Miss Clara E. Sullivan, secretary ; S. L. Barrow, treasurer; Mrs. R. F. Dillard, succeeded by Mrs. H. B. Jones, chairman of military relief; Mrs. H. H. Seat’, followed by Mrs. Bessie Moore, chairman of knitting.
Crewe Branch-Rev. W. W. Bain, chairman; Mrs. WV. R. Warriner, vice-chairman; Mrs. H. H. Watson, succeeded by Mrs. J. W. Harding, secretary; Mrs. I. W. Sheffield, treasurer; Mrs. J. V. Robinett, Mrs. J. D. Tucker and Miss Kate L. Moore, committee on military relief; Mrs. C. O. Burgon, home service and information.
Burkeville Branch-Mrs. J. P. Agnew, succeeded by Mrs. F. L. Overton, chairman; Mrs. H. W. Hundley, succeeded by Mrs. J. F. Osborne, secretary; Mrs. J. F. Boswell, treasurer; Mrs. J. H. Young and Mrs. T. P. Shelton, military relief committee; Mrs. William Forrest, chairman knitting committee; Mrs. W. P. Bostick, chairman Camp Lee mending.
*Nottoway Auxiliary-Mrs. John B. Tuggle, Sr., chairman: Mrs. E. W. Brooks, secretary; Mrs. F. L. Dunn, treasurer; Mrs. A. E. Dillemuth, chairman of knitting; Mrs. E. W. Brooks, chairman military relief.
St. Mark’s Auxiliary-Miss Sallie May Oliver (now Mrs. Cleveland Marshall), succeeded by Miss Ruby Oliver, chairman; Mrs. Stern Stables, secretary; Miss Ruby Oliver and Mrs. Ida Nunnally, military relief.
Spainville Auxiliary Mrs. Wallace Coleman, chairman; Miss Ethel Williamson (now Mrs. F. B. Jones), secretary; Mrs. H. L. Allen, treasurer; Mrs. G .R. Williamson, chairman military relief.
Darvills Auxiliary-Miss Fannie Davis (now Mrs. V. B. Powell), succeeded by Mrs. Gordon R. Davis, chairman; Mrs. Cleveland Skelton, secretary and chairman membership committee ; Mrs. R. E. Webb, treasurer; Mrs. Gordon R. Davis and Mrs. Bettie P. Rives, knitting and military relief.
Tree Auxiliary-Mrs. Waverly Hurt, chairman; Mrs. J. M. Thomas, vicechairman; Miss Lillian Thomas, secretary and treasurer; Mrs. M. R. Barrow, chairman of knitting.
Bethel Auxiliary-Mr. Joe Keller, chairman; Mr. Homer Powell, secretary; Mrs. T. R. Kreider, chairman military relief.
The following work was done by the Nottoway County Chapter:
|Hospital bed shirts||164||92||242||498|
|Comfort pillow cases||….||64||16||80|
|Old kid gloves, pounds||3||…||…||3|
The material for the garments and other articles listed above was donated by people of the county. After the articles were completed by the faithful women of the county a conservative estimate of the value was given as $5,720.50.
The branches of the Nottoway Chapter made, from materials supplied by the American Red Cross headquarters, a total of 621 garments. These branches contributed 3,285 pounds of used clothing for the Belgian Relief, $34.50 in money, and $7.15 was contributed to the Federal Council of Churches in America.
The chairman of military relief states that “most of the Red Cross work done in Nottoway County was for military relief. There was no occasion for camp or canteen service, since no camps were located nearer than forty miles, and no trains bearing soldiers needed to be stopped here. Civilian relief and personal service to soldiers was cheerfully- supplied by the organization and by individuals. All families asking information concerning men in the army and navy were given all the help possible.
The Red Cross members of Nottoway County have the distinction of doing their bit without charge of any kind-not even the price of an honor badge. The women here practically refused to near the badge that they saw paid workers from other localities wearing. The chairman of military relief gave more than 1,200 hours of work, but asked for no badge. Hundreds of Nottoway ladies gladly gave hundreds of hours of work.
The Junior Red Cross was organized and worked in connection with branches of the Senior Red Cross. Here we might add that even baby fingers clipped soft cloth into bits for pillow stuffing.
The Nottoway Soldiers’ Comfort League was organized at the home of Mrs. R. F. Dillard, October 29, 1917, to supply every soldier from Nottoway with a regulation army sweater and wristlets. The officers of the county chapter were: Mrs. E. S. Ligon, Blackstone, chairman; Miss Aline Beville, Crewe, secretary; Mrs. R. F. Dillard, Blackstone, treasurer. Mrs. Dillard was later succeeded by Mrs. J. M. Jones, Crewe. The charter members were: Misses Lucy B. Adams, Frances Campbell, Mary Stokes, Mary Lee McNair, Evelyn Tucker, Virginia Robertson, Josie Jones, Jessie Jones, Ada Blanche Perkins, Elizabeth Epes and Mattie Epes. There were five branches of this chapter as follows:
Blackstone Branch-Mrs. E. S. Ligon, followed by Miss Louise Adams, chairman; Miss Louise Hurt, followed by Miss Jessie Sullivan and Mrs. Wilfred G. Epes, secretary; Mrs. T. T. Holden, treasurer; Miss Frances Campbell, chairman membership committee; Miss Frances Irby, Miss Mattie Hite and Mrs. W. R. Jones, knitting committee; Miss Lucy B. Adams, produce committee; Mrs. Louis S. Epes, warehouse committee.
Burkeville Branch-Mrs. M. P. Bradshaw, chairman; Miss MaryLouise Overton, secretary; Miss Louise Redford, treasurer; Mrs. W. H. Eldridge, knitting committee.
Crewe Branch-Mrs. W. P. Bivens, chairman; Mrs. Willis, vicechairman; Miss Reed West, secretary; Miss Louise hove, treasurer; Miss Kate L. Moore, knitting committee.
St. Mark’s Branch-Mrs. Cleveland Marshall, chairman; Miss Fannie Green, secretary; Miss Florence Hood, treasurer; Mrs. D. Robertson and Mrs. Maggie Robertson, knitting committee.
Spainville Branch-Miss Ethel Williamson, chairman; Mrs. G. R. Williamson, knitting committee.
Nottoway Branch-Mrs. C. F. Deane, chairman; Mrs. A. E. Dillemuth, knitting committee.
Tree Branch-Mrs. Waverly Hurt, chairman; Mrs. J. M. Thomas, vicechairman; Miss Lillian Thomas, secretary-treasurer; Mrs. M. R. Barrow, knitting committee.
The Nottoway Soldiers’ Comfort League did such real service that the soldiers from that county will long remember the organization with grateful hearts. There were 248 sweaters and 228 wristlets made. Two hundred and forty-one soldiers were supplied. The young girls did a large part of this work. They often went to the warehouses before daylight to ask for a strip of tobacco from each farmer’s pile of tobacco. These gifts were placed in new piles and sold. This brought to the league a goodly sum of money to carry on its work. There were 130 sweaters left on hand after the signing of the Armistice. Some of them were given to the soldiers who were still in need of them and 100 were sold to the Red Cross and to individuals. The proceeds were added to the money left in the treasury and invested in Liberty Bonds. The total amount of money collected was $1,854.51. In the summer of 1925 when the drive came for the American Legion endowment fund to support the widows and orphans of soldiers, the sum left in the treasury was given for this worthy cause.
The Woman’s Service League of Nottoway County was the first patriotic organization formed in the county. ;firs. W. A. Land of Blackstone, was appointed chairman by Airs. W. W. Sale, State president. Miss Edith Sturgis was county secretary with Mrs. T. E. Chambers, county treasurer. Miss Sturgis was succeeded by Mrs. J. A. Dunlap, of Blackstone.
Local chairmen were appointed as follows: Mrs. H. H. Seay, Blackstone; Mrs. W. T. Warriner, Crewe; Mrs. G. R. Williamson, Spainville ; Mrs. T. B. Oliver, for comfort kit work, Crewe.
Mrs. Land, in her report of the work of this organization, says:
“A large membership was secured, with auxiliary or subsidiary organizations in three places in the county. Assistance was also freely rendered in other sections of the county, fine work resulting. Aside from the direct work done by the league, much assistance was rendered the Red Cross through the organization. Several boxes of sheets, pillow cases, tray cloths, handkerchiefs, napkins, sweaters, wristlets and mufflers were also turned over to the Red Cross. Barrels of canned goods were sent to the camps. As a direct contribution from the league, every soldier boy, upon his being called into the service, was presented with a “comfort kit.” These kits contained buttons, thread, cigarettes. tobacco, chewing gum and other accessories for the boys’ comfort. In all our work we had the hearty cooperation of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.”
The physicians of Nottoway were faithful during the epidemic of influenza and the death rate was not so appalling here as in many places. Nottoway was so near Camp Lee that the people were well instructed in the care that should be taken of themselves before the influenza reached the county. When it did come, through the blessings of Providence, the instructions to the people and the faithful attention of the physicians were proven to have not been in vain. In Blackstone during the height of the epidemic not one death occurred. Many of the people of Blackstone nursed in poverty stricken homes in the country districts.
With the passing of the war the old country seemed nearer than formerly. The men that could find work on their return went quietly back to it. Some of our soldiers sacrificed their professions through the interruption of the war. The men were welcomed home in various ways, suppers and other forms of entertainment being given in their honor, but nothing we at home could do seemed adequate to express our pride in the achievements of our boys or our joy at their return.
Gradually the old sports and social gatherings crept back into Nottoway. Thrift seems to have come to stay. A company of National Guard known as “The Nottoway Grays” has been formed in the county.
Our citizens may well boast of a community untouched by any influence other than that which stands for the great American ideals for which our boys fought.
Much of the material used in this sketch was taken from The Final Roster, written by W. W. Cobb soon after his return, having served in the army as a first lieutenant. This volume is in the files of the Virginia War History Commission.